Smallmouth bass and the moon: Part 1

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

I’ve been looking around the web and in the magazines lately and I’ve noticed that not much is being written about moon phases and fishing, especially smallmouth bass fishing. I think that’s wrong. The moon controls everything on the earth, and that includes smallmouth bass. We need to understand it if we’re going to be successful anglers.

Now, what I’m about to say is based on my experiences. I don’t pretend to be a biologist and I haven’t done any scientific studies or anything like that. I’m just a fisherman who spends a lot of time chasing smallies, and nothing I say applies to any other species of fish.

Nevertheless, I’ve seen enough to make some general observations about the moon and how it affects smallmouth bass. Those observations are especially important in the summertime when we’re fishing off and on all day and night and trying to spend as much time on the water as we can.

The first observation I want to make is that smallmouth bass feed mostly by sight. Never forget that. I know everybody talks about their lateral line and their sense of smell and taste. There might be some of that in what they do, but I’m here to tell you it’s 90 percent about what they can see. I’ve spent too many hours on the water to believe anything else.

Today we’re heading into the full moon. It’ll happen Monday. That means that right now the bite will probably be best early in the evening on up to around midnight or maybe a little before. I don’t know why, but I’ve always caught more bass early when the full moon is approaching.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday the bite will probably be best during the night. The smallmouth can see real good when there’s a lot of moonlight shining into the water. If there’s no cloud cover, they’ll actually move into the shade. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. You can fish the lighted side of something and get nothing. Move to the shady side, and you’ll load the boat in no time.

By Wednesday, the moon will be past full. The bite will shift to the early morning. Go before daylight and fish for a couple of hours after sunrise. Again, I don’t know why exactly, but I do know it’s true.

These feeding patterns will follow the same path until the moon is new (dark). When that happens, the bite will be the best during the day. My theory is that they can’t see anything when it’s pitch black out, so they have no other choice.

Obviously, this is all pretty general. Weather conditions can change what’s happening out there. Heavy cloud cover cuts the light, and storms will sometimes cause them to go crazy. And, recreational boat traffic and heat will also cause them to change things sometimes. You have to take all of that into consideration when you plan your trips.

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